Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Just Say No

Anyone worth their ABC after school special knows that when you are under the bleachers with that special someone, ok fine the captain of the football team, and he reaches for your pom-poms, it's ok to Just Say No. Even if you hinted that you were in it for the long haul, even if you passed him a note during third period Algebra, you are still within your rights to call a stop to the proceedings with a simple No.

This lesson is widely taught to girls 12-17, but is often forgotten by grown adults.

College friend called with a dilemma. After having amassed what may well be the greatest music collection of all times, his neighbor wants to "borrow" it. Neighbor just got his first iPod. Make sure you park your buggy in the garage, Mr. Neighbor, and maybe later I can show you a box in my kitchen that keeps the food cold.

Anyway, friend does not want to "share" his music collection. Has been a recreational violinist for over 20 years, and has met many musicians during that time. Understands that musicians need royalties to make their money. Feels super uncomfortable stealing bread out of the mouths of musician's babies. Understands that sharing digital music is in most cases against the law. Does not want to do anything illegal. Sounds very reasonable. Did he pick up his tin can and string telephone and mention any of this to his neighbor?


He told the neighbor he was concerned about him screwing around with his computer. Told him he worried that the entire digital collection would end up erased.

Neighbor persisted. Researched software that according to very reputable sources can download entire music collection without a hiccup. Bought two terabyte hard drives figuring that would be just enough to hold easily 27 years of music collection. Last week the guy didn't have an iPod. Now he's talking terabytes.

College friend called me for advice.

Here's an idea. Think back to those days under the bleachers and Just Say No.

When your neighbor says "I want to borrow your music collection", you say "No. I wish I could help you, but you know what? Sharing music is against the law and I don't feel comfortable". Or "I can help you figure out how to use iTunes, and how to load your CDs onto your iPod, but I don't feel comfortable sharing my music." Another choice: "I've thought about your request for my music and you know what? It's not sitting right with me. I'm afraid I have to say NO."

Another option: Just like the girls who had lots of creative solutions for not giving anything away, College friend can meet neighbor on second base. Can offer to put a playlist together of favorite tunes for Neighbor, thus only taking bread from a minimal amount of musician's babies' mouths and therefore committing less of a crime.

As I explained to my College friend, we often want to be accommodating, but if you are uncomfortable sharing something that's yours, take a lesson from the twelve year old cheerleader at half time and Just Say No.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Someone in my A crowd is having what she calls an affair. What she means is a huge and very fancy party. Engraved invitations, professional decorators, live music, sushi and martini bars, possible guest appearance by Ke$ha, the whole deal.

As guests, we have a few responsibilities. We have to wear what are supremely cute but let's face it probably very uncomfortable shoes. We have to smile and say something witty for the video camera. We have to keep cousin Harry away from Auntie Ethel because of the whitefish salad incident of '94. But weeks before we even arrive at the affair we have an important task: we have to check off the Reply Card and let them know how many of us are coming.

It should be simple.

It's a pre-printed card. It has a list of gala events with a dash next to it for how many people will be attending. Dinner _____. Brunch _______. And on the _______ you are expected to write how many of you will be attending so that the hostess knows how many quail to stuff.

Let's say there are five people in your family. And you are all coming for dinner, but your daughter has a soccer game in the morning and will not make it to the brunch. Your card should read Dinner 5 and Brunch 4. Let's say you just remember that your husband will have to take her to the soccer game and probably won't make it to the brunch. Then your card would read Dinner 5 and Brunch 3. Now let's say your son doesn't want to come to the dinner on Saturday night because there's a playoff game he absolutely can not afford to miss. You tell your son that's why the good lord invented iPhones and worst case Tivo, and your reply card will still read Dinner 5, Brunch 3.

Now, and this is where people are getting very confused so I am doing this in part as a public service announcement, let's say you have a friend in from out of town who has always wanted to see an elephant wearing a tutu and you have a hunch there will be one at this affair. And, just to keep it simple, let's say that your daughter's soccer game has been canceled. There are still five people in your family. Your reply card should read Dinner 5 and Brunch 5.

Wait a minute, isn't 5+1 = 6? What happened to the friend that's in from out of town? Shouldn't there be 5+1 on your RSVP card?

Yes, 5+1 is still 6. No there will not be 6 on the RSVP card. There will be 5 people in a ballroom conga line, and one person at the zoo taking pictures of the elephants, trying to visualize them wearing pink tulle skirts.

So when you are invited to a gargantuan extravaganza with three story chocolate fountains an affair in a hotel, think of the ________ as a /5. Limit your RSVP max to the actual number of people indicated on the envelope. And for godssakes, this time please keep Auntie Ethel away from the whitefish salad.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bringing all new meaning to the term Hungry Man Dinner

Yesterday, my neighbor's thirteen year old kid walked over to the grocery store, peeled $6 out of his wallet, bought a frozen dinner, came home, nuked it, flopped down in front of the Simpsons and wolfed the sucker down.

Appalling? Not really.

Now let me tell you what really happened.

Yesterday, my neighbor's thirteen year old kid shot a buffalo. Between the eyes. Three hundred pounds of meat and a new freezer in the garage later, they have dinner for the rest of the season.

Now are you appalled? I thought so.

Here's the back story: Neighbor had a client who offered him the opportunity of a lifetime. Hunting buffalo on the plain. Keep the meat. Sounds like a blast, my neighbor said, and I'm bringing my son.

Arriving at the ranch, Neighbor became queasy. Realized that there would be actual shooting and killing of live animals. Son, upon realizing same, became even more enthusiastic.

Out on the range. Buffalo everywhere. Son is a crack shot. Everyone jealous. Teach me how to shoot like him, they clamor. Thirteen year old learns how to take a knife, slice off what has to be sliced, gut what has to be gutted, and does not break a sweat. He will make a great surgeon someday. Neighbor however is in the golf cart throwing up a little in his mouth.

Son leaves ecstatic. So totally retro, dude. Organic, free range meat - no hydrogenated coconut oil, high fructose corn syrup or red dye number five. And I killed it myself. Dude.

The ranch people then take the buffalo, prepare the meat, soak the skin off the head, and a few weeks later Neighbor will get a delivery of the meat and the cleaned skull.

Moral of the story:

Eating meat that was squished into cages, pumped with hormones, processed with chemicals and finally packaged in plastic and then doused with microwave rays has somehow become more socially acceptable than meat that had a nice life frolicking in the meadow till we came along and killed it humanely and compassionately.

Maybe it's time to rethink this one.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

I Have Often Wondered Why Oprah Never Did A Show On This

The other day I was a few minutes late for a meeting with some (female) colleagues. I turned the corner and saw them waiting outside my office.

"Sorry I'm late," I confessed sheepishly "I had to pee."

They exchanged jealous glances. "You peed? Seriously? How do you make the time? We never have time to pee!!"

They weren't kidding.

How many of us have said to ourselves "I'm just going to finish this report - or change this diaper - or stir fry this chicken - and then I'll pee" only to have another report, diaper or chicken needing to be typed, changed or stir fried (hopefully in the right order)?

Are we so out of touch with our bodies that going to the bathroom becomes something on our to do lists? Squeezed between calling the carpet cleaner and buying chopped hazelnuts?

Do we have so little self respect that we will actually put off taking a leak?

The answer, for many of us, is yes.

One of my friends got me a Women Who Do Too Much calendar for New Year's. The tear-off pages urge me to take time for myself. Sip cups of mint tea, have coffee with friends, enjoy a drink with my husband. True, we're only in April, but so far none of the suggestions have included sitting on a toilet, peeing, wiping, flushing and - let's go crazy - washing my hands with eucalyptus soap.

Hot Stone Massages? Worth every penny. Knitting retreat in Vermont? I'm sure that would be fun too. But you don't need a spa or a spinnery to treat yourself. You can start today.

Go ahead. Pee. You deserve it.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Maybe Moby Dick would've been a better choice?

The other day I was reading another blog  innocently working from home, when I clicked on tripped over a guest blogger reviewing her memoir about how unhappy she was with her husband until she tried every suggestion in every self help book she could find, and (spoiler alert) turned her sad excuse for a marriage into the passionate love affair she had always dreamed of.

She explained the premise of her book: she hated her husband, and spent hours dreaming about his death.  Not just his death: his funeral; the eulogy; flower arrangements; memorial service (including varied locations and menu options); and her subsequent re-entry into dating.  She goes on to say that many, many women want their husbands dead and this is perfectly normal. 

I beg to differ.

Yes, over the course of a lifetime and a marriage there are ups and downs.  And, sure, nobody likes the toilet seat left up.  But I will state for the record that if you are fantasizing about what you will wear to your perfectly healthy spouse's funeral something is very, very, very wrong.

She goes on to reassure her readers.  If you hate your husband, she confides, and you wish he would have a heart attack or an aneurysm, you are not alone.  This is the dark side of marriage, she whispers, that no one talks about.

So wishing pestilence and disease on your life partner and father of your child is just another womanly secret like waxing or slipping a few bucks into your girdle. 

I don't think so.

If you are that unhappy, for the love of Christ, crack open a yellow pages and get yourself a divorce lawyer.

I am now officially sucked in.  I need to read more.  I need to understand how she ended up married to this guy in the first place, why they had a kid, what he could have possibly done to make her so unhappy, and how she (spoiler alert) fixed everything within four measly months.

I say a quick prayer to Saint Kindle and the 3G angels, and I click.

Completely forgetting that my kindle is connected to my husband's credit card.

Poor guy gets an e-mail saying his wife just downloaded Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters.

Sorry Honey.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Three times I went into the hospital when there was snow on the ground, and all three times I came out with a healthy baby and no more snow.  I love this time of year.

In our house, birthdays are a HUGE BIG DEAL.  Everything goes to you on your birthday. You even get automatic shotgun.

You choose what we have for breakfast, what music we listen to, and of course, there are parties, gifts, friends, family and cake.  Some years there has been a birthday trip to Dairy Queen for each kid, other years we have combined celebrations and taken a birthday trip on an airplane. 

There is one thing, though, that I would never do on my kids' birthdays and that is bring charity into it.
 It has become trendy of late to include with your Dora the Explorer or Iron Man 3 invitation a folded slip of paper saying something like:  "Instead of gifts, Missy has decided to ask for donations to Kids without Smiles."  

The first time this happened to me, I totally fell for it. 

I sent my donation off to Adults without Borders, or Floods without Fires or whatever it was. We get to the party and I see everyone getting out of the car bearing wrapped gifts.  I was confused. 

Once inside, I quickly found out the story.  Yes, we all donated to the Help a Kid Foundation, but we couldn't possibly show up at the party without a gift for little Joey.  So that's how it works.  We have to donate to the charity, AND, we have to bring a little something for the birthday boy.  

I didn't like it.  

I didn't like the unwritten message that I needed to provide two gifts - a cheque for the charity and a Bionicle for the kid. I also felt like there was a presumption that I wouldn't give to charity unless I was invited to your birthday party.  Like I need you to show me how it's done. 

Furthermore, I think it's a bit ridiculous that the parents felt the best way to teach their child about charity was to make me give charity.  If you want to do good work with your kids I'm all for it.  But don't send me to the food bank.  You gotta deliver them meals yourself.

There are, at last count, and realignment of the planets notwithstanding, 365 days of the year.  That means there are 364 days to think of everyone else in the world and only one day that's all about you.  We can spend the 364 days walking for  Penniless Puppies, selling ribbons for Mothers Against Sexting, or drinking tap water.  Specifics are up to you.  

But on my kids birthday?  No way.  I say let them choose the music, sit in the front seat, open their gifts, and hey - Let Them Eat Cake.